Are you scheduled for surgery? If so, you may be concerned about the need to replace blood lost during surgery. The goal is to maintain the body’s normal levels of blood. Blood management is a way to plan ahead to achieve this goal. Your health care provider can tell you more about the types of blood donations and, if needed, ways to build up your blood. Be sure to talk to your health care provider about the risks and complications of the different blood management methods described below.
Getting Ready for Surgery
Getting ready for surgery may require some preparation. Adequate time and planning provide more blood management options. Blood tests are done to check your blood levels and whether or not you have anemia (low red blood cell count). If you are banking your own blood, you need to be in good health and without medical problems. There are also certain weight requirements. You may need to sign a consent form that provides information about transfusions and blood options. Also, be sure to tell your health care provider if you are taking medications of any kind.
Autologous Blood Transfusion
You may be able to donate and bank your own blood before surgery for later transfusion. This is called autologous blood donation. Your banked blood is replaced during or after surgery as needed. Autologous donations require advance planning. The time depends on the amount of blood needed. Another option for autologous blood transfusion is to save blood that is lost during surgery. This blood is then returned to your body during or after surgery, if needed. Autologous blood is the safest blood you can receive. The risks of getting a disease or an allergic reaction are very low. In some cases, though, you may also receive donor blood if you were unable to donate enough blood before surgery.
Allogeneic Blood Transfusion
If you are not able to donate for yourself, you may receive blood donated by another person (a blood bank donor). This is called allogeneic blood donation. This type of blood is screened for disease. And it is ready to use right away. Relatives and friends with your blood type can also donate blood for your use. This is called a designated (or directed) donor. Time is still needed to screen the blood for disease. Know that bank blood is considered safe.
If you have a medical condition such as anemia (low red blood cell count), you may not be able to donate your own blood. If you are scheduled for elective, noncardiac, nonvascular surgery, another option for blood management includes injections of a drug called epoetin alfa (erythropoietin). This drug helps increase the amount of red blood cells in the blood. It also reduces the need for allogeneic blood transfusion. Epoetin alfa is given in weekly doses at a health care provider’s office.
Sources of Iron
If you are donating your own blood or if you have anemia (low red blood cell count), you may need extra iron. An iron supplement may be prescribed. Take it with vitamin C for better absorption. Eating foods that contain iron may also benefit you. Iron-rich foods include red meat, beans, nuts, and raisins.